According to Gail Civille, in the past Americans typically chewed a mouthful of food as many as twenty-five times before it was ready to be swallowed; now the average American chews only ten times.
That is from David Kessler's The End of Overeating: Taking Control of the Insatiable American Appetite. This is a good book even if you've already read seven prior books on exactly the same topic. It's the best applied study in behavioral economics to date. I do object, however, to how the author aggregates fat, salt, and sugar, as if they were equally bad for you.
Via John Nye, here is a good article on how French baguettes are succumbing to the global trend for softer foods:
Bakers say that they are merely responding to market forces,
determined by the growing proportion of customers who demand a baguette
pas trop cuite (not too cooked). They argue that they cannot
impose a crunchy surface on a society that has grown accustomed to the
notion that food should melt in the mouth .
Mr Kaplan is appalled. “The question is: do the French care any
more, do they care about taste? When you eat their tomatoes, their
carrots and their merlotised wine, you start to wonder. Are they not
collaborating in their own cultural demise?”
…According to Kaplan, bakers are cutting cooking time – usually
between 18 and 22 minutes at 250C to 260C – by 60 seconds or more in
search of a less crusty crust.
The upshot is the loss of the Maillard reaction, a chemical process
occurring at high temperatures and leading to browning and crispiness,
that Kaplan says is vital to the production of a good loaf.
Here is Alex's earlier post on the declining quality of French bread.